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Former Tacomans duck typhoons in their new home in the Philippines

Estrella Sung would like her parents to move.

Sung’s parents, Joaquin and Salvacion Faelnar (Jack and Sally), retired from Tacoma to the Philippines in 2002 and survived the typhoon that hit the island nation and killed thousands last year.

Then, just weeks after the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan earlier this month, came Typhoon Hagupit.

“I keep telling them, you’ve got seven lives left now,” Sung, who lives in Renton, said of her parents.

Her family was one of several with South Sound ties affected by the typhoons.

She said last year that the only way to prepare for a storm such as Haiyan would be to evacuate the masses. The aftermath of Hagupit supports that.

When Hagupit hit the country in early December, evacuations had already started days before, news organizations reported. Dozens were reported dead, compared to the roughly 7,000 who died during Haiyan.

During Hagupit, Sung’s parents moved to a relative’s home that is on higher ground than their own house in the city of Tacloban.

“Everything seems to be OK, although there are some power outages,” she said soon after the storm. “I can’t contact them through the phone, just through Facebook.”

She said her parents fared better than many after Haiyan. Even so, they fought to keep their heads above water that filled their house and were helped to safety by their housekeeper.

Insurance covered much of the destruction to their home.

“It actually, relatively speaking, didn’t get as damaged as other people’s houses,” she said. “There was just a lot of mud and flooding damage. The roof was still intact.”

And before Hagupit, they were able to move belongings out of the house to protect them.

Others were still feeling the effects of Haiyan when Hagupit hit, Sung said.

“Some of the other relatives, it’s still a struggle,” she said. “Some of them had to relocate to get jobs. Some others had to live in shelters or with other relatives. Not everyone was as fortunate as my parents.”

But the region has recovered in many ways from the first, and more destructive, typhoon, she said.

The malls are back. Major retailers are open.

Relief efforts mounted after Haiyan were important to the country’s recovery.

“Everyone has told me what they did receive from the last time was such a big help,” she said. “They were all very grateful.”

Some such supplies came by way of Odette D’Aniello’s family. The owner of Tacoma’s Celebrity Cake Studio helped coordinate donations to be sent to the Philippines, where a family in Cebu helped distribute supplies after Haiyan.

D’Aniello visited in November.

“Cebu wasn’t hit as badly,” she said. “It became the spokes and the wheel of the relief effort. I didn’t see too much of an impact that was left over from last year. But I did see it in Bohol.”

Churches there crumbled to the ground, she said. Roads were destroyed.

“I think there’s still a need for rebuilding,” she said. “I think there’s still a lot of people who are suffering, but they’re making do.”

Her cousin in Cebu took money D’Aniello collected and sent for supplies to distribute to those in need, such as food, rebuilding materials and fishing boats to replace those destroyed in the storm.

Alarmed by media accounts of corruption, D’Aniello said she has concerns about how supplies she collected and sent to other aid efforts were distributed.

“I wouldn’t send clothes, nor would I send food,” she said, if she were to do it again. “The efforts were greatly hampered by poor distribution. The distribution channel horded a lot of the donations. They ended up in stores being resold. It didn’t necessarily go to the people who needed them.”

She said she sees Federal Way-based charity World Vision as having a positive influence in the region, managing money in a way that she thinks is effective.

The strength of the people affected also helped recovery efforts, she said.

“The Filipino people are very resilient,” she said. “That’s what I have observed. They see a lot of natural disasters. They bounce back fairly quickly.”

Sung said her father, a former master sergeant for the U.S. Army stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for most of the two decades he served, is very attached to his hometown of Tacloban. It’s where her parents were married, she said, and where they built their retirement home on family land.

But Sung hopes her father and mother will move to Manila, where she says there are more resources and where she feels her parents would be safer.

“There’s always the possibility of other storms,” she said.

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